Living in a country in which so-referred to as homosexual propaganda is banned, Denis, 19, changed into satisfied to sooner or later meet someone he felt a connection with at the courting app Tinder.
A few weeks once they had commenced chatting, the man on the opposite facet of the display invited him over and requested him to carry “a few weeds” to relax them all through their first stumble upon. But while Denis arrived at the cope with his date had given him, he becomes met by using policeman who commenced to go looking him.
“It grew to become out to be a fixed up, and the guy I became talking to on Tinder became a cop,” Denis informed The Moscow Times. The police offered him a preference — pay a bribe or face being charged under the notorious Article 228 for drug-related crimes. “They informed me they might fee me with possession of seven grams of marijuana and open a crook case towards me, even though I had much less on me. It might have been the give up of my college profession and in all likelihood my destiny,” he said.
Possession of up to six grams of the drug is an administrative offense, even as whatever over that may be a criminal offense. Denis paid the 70,000 ruble ($1,088) bribe. Russia has the best variety of people in keeping with capita imprisoned for drug crimes in Europe. Most of them were convicted underneath Article 228 of the Russian Criminal Code — nicknamed “narodnaya stay” or “the people’s article” due to the big wide variety of humans imprisoned under it. In 2018 alone, around one hundred,000 human beings were jailed under the article, and 1 / 4 of all prisoners are in prison on drug-related fees.
According to Maksim Malishev, coordinator of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation NGO that targets to trade Russia’s drug legal guidelines, Denis’s tale is a long way from particular. “We continuously listen of police either planting drugs on harmless people or increasing the number of drugs they stuck someone with a good way to prosecute the individual under crook regulation,” he stated. Human rights attorney Arseniy Levinson stated that police and different officers fabricate cases for several reasons and attain sure quotas and gather bribes.
Last week, Russian investigative reporter Ivan Golunov changed into arrested and charged with drug trafficking below Article 228. The anti-corruption journalist’s detention brought about a national outcry amongst his Russian friends and human rights activists, who stated capsules found with police aid in his backpack and condo had been planted. On Monday, Russia’s Interior Ministry dominated to drop the charges in opposition to Godunov, admitting that there was no evidence the medicine belonged to him.
“Not all and sundry is as well-known as Ivan Godunov, and most instances cross ignored as they aren’t political. We have hundreds and lots of people rotting away in prison because of false charges,” stated Vyacheslav Matushin, a colleague of Malishev on the Andrey Rylkov Foundation. The Godunov case has ignited public debate about Article 228 and how it’s far being carried out. “We are feeling the put up-Golunov impact, and this could be a turning factor in how Russians take a look at Article 228,” stated Ella Paneyakh, a sociologist at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. The trouble with modern-day drug law is how the gadget is installed, stated Mikhail Golichenko, a human rights legal professional specializing in drug and HIV cases.
Godunov’s excessive-profile case but may have precipitated a reaction from the authorities. He pointed to authentic country figures displaying that over eighty percent of everyone charged below Article 228 are convicted for the possession of medicine without the purpose of promoting them. “In those instances, police have nearly complete oversight over the evidence that is presented to the courts and the judges need little else to make their decision.” On Tuesday, the independent television station Dozhd stated that a proposal to reduce sentences for drug possession unrelated to tried sales might be handed using Russia’s State Duma earlier than the quit of the spring session. The first listening will be on June 20. “I recognize they have been running for some time now on softening the regulation; maybe now they think they may have the assist of the general public to push it via,” Malishev stated, adding that “it’s far most effective a tiny step within the right direction.”
Several excessive-profile officers have also voiced their support for reform. Alexei Kudrin, the pinnacle of the Audit Chamber and an extended-status consultant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said even as he “welcomed” the discharge of Godunov, “many others are nevertheless in prison” and known as for reform of Article 228. However, lawyers and human rights activists The Moscow Times spoke to stay skeptical that new legislation will bring authentic trade. “The authorities would possibly melt the laws a bit, but until there is a fundamental shift within the manner police deal with suspects, this could maintain on occurring,” Levinson said.